January 29th, 2014
01:18 AM ET
8 years ago

N.Y. congressman apologizes after threatening to throw reporter off balcony

updated 12:05 p.m. ET

Washington (CNN) - After first defending his actions, Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York, apologized Wednesday for physically threatening a NY1 News reporter at the Capitol.

"I apologized. I called (the reporter) Michael Scotto up. He was very gracious in accepting my apology. We're going to have lunch sometime next week and make sure this is all behind us," Grimm told reporters in Washington.

"This was an unfortunate incident that shouldn't have happened. I'm sure my Italian mother is going to be yelling at me, saying 'you weren't raised that way' and she's right," he added

Scotto confirmed that he spoke with Grimm.

It all started when the congressman, who's under investigation by the Justice Department for illegal fundraising during his 2010 campaign, walked away from an on-camera interview Tuesday night after the State of the Union address. Grimm stormed off when Scotto tried to ask him a question at the end about the campaign finance allegations.

"Alright, so Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about the allegations concerning his campaign finances," Scotto said. "We wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about that. Back to you."

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With the camera still rolling, Grimm surged toward the reporter, who appeared visibly surprised.

The second-term congressman, who's also a former Marine and former FBI agent, spoke aggressively to Scotto for about 20 seconds.

NY1, a CNN affiliate, broadcast the confrontation late Tuesday night, though it bleeped out the obscenities.

"Let me be clear to you: If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this f***ing balcony," Grimm said, as they were standing on the third floor of the rotunda in the Cannon House building.

Scotto replied that he was just trying to ask "a valid question."

"No, no. You're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half, like a boy," Grimm replied.

First elected in 2010, Grimm represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. In a statement late Tuesday night to NY1, he defended his comments, saying he was "extremely annoyed" because he was "doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests."

"The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic," he added.

"I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor."

Talking to reporters Wednesday morning after the apology, Grimm said he's "passionate" and tends to "wear my emotions on my sleeve."

The congressman said he had been working on flood insurance legislation all day Tuesday and was under "a lot of pressure to deliver because I want my constituents to know I do have their back."

Speaking with another group of reporters Wednesday, Grimm was asked whether he has talked to the FBI or the Justice Department about the investigation.

"No, not at all," he said.

Grimm is accused of taking campaign donations from overseas and encouraging donors to exceed contribution limits.

Two people close to Grimm have been charged in the case, but Grimm denies any involvement.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Scotto said he didn't expect much of a reaction from Grimm to his question the previous night.

"I was surprised about his reaction," Scotto said Wednesday morning on CNN's New Day. "I'm a New York City reporter. I'm used to pushback but I never encountered anything like that"

Asked by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo if he thought the threat was real, Scotto said "I don't believe the substance of the threat at all. I'm not taking it personal. I just think he was angry by the fact that I asked that question and I think he was even more angry by the fact that I kind of explained to viewers why he was not going to answer that question."

Scotto added that there were no preconditions when he spoke to the Grimm before the interview started.

NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt also released a statement, calling the congressman's behavior "unacceptable."

"It is extremely disturbing when anyone threatens one of our reporters – let alone a U.S. Congressman. The NY1 family is certainly alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of Representative Grimm and demands a full apology from him. This behavior is unacceptable," reads the statement.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has long been targeting Grimm over the allegations, was quick to push out the confrontation in an e-mail blast to reporters Tuesday night.

Grimm has been known to get testy with reporters in the past, including on CNN's "The Situation Room" last fall.

CNN's Athena Jones, Deirdre Walsh, Kevin Liptak, Conor Finnegan and Greg Seaby contributed to this report.

Filed under: Michael Grimm
soundoff (435 Responses)
  1. with a grain of salt

    I could only imagine the outrage by the poor Republicans if he were a Democrat, but no, he's a gop so no biggie, he was the victim remember. How do these oppressed Republicans make it through the day, constantly being victimized. So let's hear all the excuses rwnj, I suppose the charges are a conspiracy too, you fools kill me, for you hear yourselves?

    January 29, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  2. William Shelton

    "I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect..."

    Congressman, we also expect a certain level of professionalism and respect from our members of Congress, not bullying and testosterone-laden, chest-thumping threats.

    January 29, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  3. mercfan

    Sorry but threatening to throw the reporter off a balcony – is not the same as telling him off or taking him to task. That’s something you would expect from a person involved with organized crime to say.

    Most politician's can blow someone off without making it even look like that's what they are doing, by remaining professional and calm. If he truly did not have time, he could have just said, you asked me comment about the State of the Union and I have to get to another interview, I don't have time for more questions.

    Judging by his reaction, the reporter obviously touched a raw nerve and it only makes him look guilty of what he was accused of doing. Not only that, but it made it a bigger story than it would have been if NY1 had just reported, Grimm refused to answer my questions. NY1 is the local news channel for Time Warner cable in NY City and now it's a national story on CNN.

    January 29, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. ConcernedCitizenVoter

    Another totally rational American that can handle his anger and needs a gun in his hand at all times!

    January 29, 2014 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  5. rowtatediscus

    Reporters should stick to the purpose of the interview. Otherwise they have no business complaining when they can't get anyone to talk to them.

    January 29, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. Roz

    What happens when Grimm snaps? We should all be afraid...... Will he hurt my President? Man is wound way too tight to serve with a reasonable pragmatic mind.

    January 29, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  7. Bob G

    Rep Grimm should be asked to resign for his un-congressman like conduct. Free press is at the center of our democracy. The reporter asked a valid question. He could have respectfully declined to comment and walk away. But he chose to come back and threaten the reporter when he thought the camera was not recording. He thought no one will know. How you behave when no one is watching is the true definition of your character.

    January 29, 2014 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  8. Dead Bear

    Hopefully this jarhead gets thrown out of Congress.

    January 29, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  9. The Truth the Light and the Way

    A real thug. By every definition of the word. This elected official needs to be charged with verbal assault, resign from office and if guilty do jail time. A true modern tea party Republican. A shame and an embarrassment to the legislative branch of government.

    January 29, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  10. Brian S

    Anyone else shocked by the reference to "break you in half, like a boy"? Really?!

    January 29, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  11. Freedom lost on neo zio 911

    This is why our Republic is in GREAT DANGER due to the arrogance and disdain these creatures, yes "creatures" have for us. We put them there, pay them millions over years and this is how answering questions is looked upon, "you little people have no right to ask me any questions about impropriety, I AM A GOD to you little people". Yes this is how they look at our idea of a responsible politician. Lamp posts researved for all.

    January 29, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  12. plain and simple

    Can't stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen!!! Politics requires self assurance and diplomacy. Lacking emotional stability under pressure reveals how important those qualities are. Today's tea party mentality worships these moments as being strong and showing how devoted one is to making America back into the strong nation it once was. I call that misguided and delusional.

    January 29, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  13. Grimm Cruze Control

    The Senator should be removed from his position. If I were to threaten someone at work, my cardboard box with my personal items would meet me at the door as I was escorted about by security.

    January 29, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    If Mr. Grimm was so pressed for time, then why is it did he wait around for the reporter to finish his broadcast? Why did Mr. Grimm waste even more of his valuable time to confront and threaten the reporter.

    Here's the problem for Mr. Grimm, folks. He has been mired in a campaign finance scandal for, oh I dunno, two years or so. Over the past two weeks, the investigation has taken on new life as new evidence has come to light against Grimm. Grimm has been evading the press for any sort of comment about the new evidence ever since.

    January 29, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  15. ShawnDH

    Republicans. Ugh.

    January 29, 2014 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  16. planetha

    Recipe for a Michael Grimm:

    – a stint in the Marines

    – a job with the FBI

    – a GOP seat in Congress (under criminal investigation)

    Mix it up, shake it, steam it, then display it in polite company and watch what happens.

    January 29, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  17. jay

    I don't know much about the politician, however the problem is not just that he was asked by the reporter about the other issue, but the obviously snide commentary he made after the subject refused to talk. Far from being objective.

    January 29, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  18. tru2america

    Another unstable corrupt republican politician who can't handle getting caught and obviously like many, tries to avoid dealing with questions about their financial cheating. If anyone thinks all these people are all so rich from hard working businesses they have or inherited, oh how wrong you are many are rich from illegal campaign money and "donations" or simply being bought off by bid oil, pharmaceutical and other corporations. I'd bet at least 50% "earned" their wealth the Bob McDonald way. Thru bribes and "gifts" for favors.

    January 29, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  19. Whereisthemiddle?

    I see a dangerous trend in many of these posts. There seems to be this idea that it's not right for a reporter to ask questions. I understand that an interview to speak about the state of the union address might be the topic but any good journalist would ask questions like this one did. The congressmen's response should have been no comment. Let's not let partisan BS clear our judgement of our freedoms. If the interviewee got to dictate the questions what would be the point? They could just prepare a statement and be done with it. Very dangerous trend indeed...

    January 29, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  20. Cathy

    He had plenty of time to make threats. There is a difference between telling someone off and threatening them with physical harm. He is lucky I am not in his jurisdiction because I would be campaigning for whoever opposed him. Threats are unacceptable.

    January 29, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  21. Curt

    The Congressman is a "Grimm" duh! And the reporter must be Wesen! Probably Blutbaden??? 🙂

    January 29, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  22. eville11

    A few tossed reporters from balconies and maybe the biased rumor guided weak logic and tidbits of opinionated BS we hear everyday would tone down from the " newscenters" . Other than that, That look on the first frame and the caption I am not scared, is priceless... really, maybe not now buddy, that frame tells me you were something else then.

    January 29, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  23. Engineer13

    I am astonished at the tone of most of these comments. This reporter "deserved" this reaction because he asked a question that was "off topic?" Have you all lost your minds? It is the media's JOB to question, and to question without fear of censorship. A politician is not obligated to answer a reporter's question, and can excuse themselves and walk away, pretty simple. Instead this blowhard walked away, and came back unsolicited to threaten specific bodily harm. You people sit here defending this man, why? Why do you cling so hard to your violence? Is it because you have no other problem solving skills? Would you still defend this man if the reporter was your son or daughter?

    Every once in a while I stop to look around me and question my place in this, my country.

    January 29, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  24. NYVeteran

    So when the media reports the fats and you don't like it, the correct reasonable and logical course of action is to threaten to throw them off a balcony and break them in half like a boy. Seems like a bit of a hair trigger there and not ht type person you want in government.

    January 29, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  25. EG

    Elected officials only want to answer questions on camera that they where asked that they were asked prior to the camera being turned on so that they can mislead the public with their scripted prepared lies. Elected officials who does this- or in my opinion, self-serving, fake image promoting actors who are worthless to their community. If one of us had threaten him like he threaten the reporter we would have been arrested. These are nothing but bullies who has been placed above the law because of the positions the public has elected them to...it was not meant to be like this!

    January 29, 2014 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
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